Assessing family history has always been an important component of understanding each patient’s individual risk for serious illness. And it’s been known for some time that certain types of cancer run in families.
Thanks to more advanced testing techniques, we can now glean deeper insights about the genetic factors that play a role in patients’ risks. Here’s a closer look into inherited cancer screenings, and how they help patients understand their predisposition for disease.
What Are Inherited Cancer Screenings?
Inherited cancer screenings use next-generation genetic sequencing technology to assess for pathogenic genetic variants which can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Samples of blood, cheek cells, urine, hair, or other body tissues can all be utilized. In most cases, genetic tests for cancer involve blood draws with several collection tubes.
Once specimens are collected, tests will be performed to look for specific gene variants. Although we’re still learning about the precise ways different lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors contribute to overall cancer risk, inherited gene variants contribute to 5 to 10% of all cancers.
Having a harmful variant linked to cancer doesn’t necessarily mean a patient will get that type of cancer, but the knowledge can inform a patient’s decisions about any necessary screenings, or lifestyle changes. Doctors can also offer clinical guidance to help patients with such variants lower their risk, or look for early warning signs.
What Cancers Can We Screen For?
- At LifeBrite Labs, we offer inherited cancer testing services for the following:
- Female reproductive tract cancers
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Lung cancer
- Renal cancer
- Tumor syndromes
- In addition, we offer a comprehensive hereditary cancer panel.
Who Should Consider Inherited Cancer Screenings?
Opting for inherited cancer screening is an individual decision. Physicians can help their patients make informed choices by discussing any risk factors that have already been identified, and outlining current recommendations for screenings.
While these decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, the American Cancer Society encourages people with the following variables to pursue inherited cancer screenings:
- Individuals with a strong family history of cancer, to see if a gene mutation is present
- Individuals who have already been diagnosed with cancer, to see if an inherited mutation could have played a factor in causing the cancer, and to potentially encourage family members to get tested
- Individuals with family members who are known to have an inherited gene mutation that increases cancer risk
What Do the Results Tell You?
Positive results indicate a mutated gene is present, while a negative result means the patient does not have the genes they were tested for. Further testing may be advised if results are inconclusive, or if an unusual form of a gene is present, but is a variance of unknown significance (VUS).
For patients with known gene mutations, doctors may advise lifestyle changes, screening tests, and learning about early signs or symptoms of cancer. Chemoprevention or preventive surgery may be advised in especially high-risk cases. Patients with negative results should continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as other factors can also contribute to a person’s cancer risk.
LifeBrite Labs offers inherited cancer screenings to help patients feel empowered about their healthcare decisions. Find out more about the panels we can provide for you or your patients through our website. You can also call us directly with specific questions at (678) 433-0607.